Category Archives: Ingredient Highlight

Skincare 101: Filler Ingredients?

When you buy a skincare product, what do you expect to find in it? If it’s a moisturizer, probably some sort of oil. If it’s a vitamin C serum, then obviously vitamin C somewhere. However, the ingredients list often contains chemicals you may not recognize such as emulsifiers, preservatives or stabilizers. Or even if you do recognize them, you might be thinking “why does my ____ have ___ in it?” When I say filler ingredients, I don’t mean the ingredients of your Botox/wrinkle fillers, but ingredients that seems to serve no real purpose in your skincare. 

Sometimes you may discover that a high-end product is more effective than its drugstore counterpart even though both have similar ingredients list. However, ingredients list do not tell you the concentration and the higher end product might have a higher concentration of beneficial ingredients while the lower end product might have more cheaper “filler” ingredients. Some of the ingredients that almost every skincare has are water, alcohol and silicone. But do they have any purpose? Continue reading Skincare 101: Filler Ingredients?


Ingredients and Brightening Masks

Coming from an Asian country, it took me a few years to realize “whitening” and “brightening” refers to different things. Whitening refers to bleaching the skin to make it shades lighter/whiter and may damage the skin while brightening focus on getting rid of dark spots, acne scars and dull skin. While almost everyone is familiar with glycolic acid and vitamin C, there are quite a few other effective brightening ingredients that you might have noticed. Not everything is appropriate for everyone, so here’s a brief introduction:

  • Hydroquinone – a skin lightener to treat pigmentation. It is banned in some countries due to concerns about risk of cancer, and darkening of the skin for people of color. Small concentration seems to be okay if you don’t have dark skin.
  • Kojic acid – a plant extract to treat pigmentation. It has been found to be less effective than 2% hydroquinone but more effective than arbutin. However, it may cause sensitivity. It is unstable and may break down when expose to heat and light.
  • Arbutin – plant extract that treats discoloration. It’s gentle and works well for sensitive skin. Research has shown that synthetic form (deoxyarbutin) may work better than natural extract. Since it is glycosylated hydroquinone, there is similar concern about cancer risk, which has not been proven yet.
  • Glycolic acid – an alpha hydroxy acid that treats pigmentation by exfoliating off the dull skin and quickens cell turnover, which reduces fine lines and rough skin texture. However, it can make the skin more sensitive and irritated.
  • Vitamin C – it treats sunspots and dull skin and is mildly effective on fine lines and skin firmness. There’s not really any risks or side effects, the stability and strength depends on the type of vitamin C used. Instead of breaking down in sunlight, it helps to defend the skin against UV rays so it’s great to use during the day.
  • Niacinamide – also known as vitamin B3. In addition to even the skintone, it also has anti-inflammatory properties, improves the skin’s protective function, and stimulates collagen production. It’s great for acne-prone and sensitive skin.
  • Licorice extract – it is a brightening ingredient with soothing anti-inflammatory properties. Anti-inflammation is very important when skin brightening because irritation may lead to an increase in melanin production.
  • Algae extract – it evens the skintone and helps to fight against surface redness. It can revitalize and moisturize stressed skin as well.
  • Azelaic acid – it reduces pigmentation but has no risk of irritation or darkening the skin when used too much, thus good for sensitive skin.

If you have brightening products, then you probably has seen several of these ingredients in it. However, if you don’t use sunscreen consistently then all your hard work is wasted. 

But today, we are talking about brightening sheet masks. Dr. Jart+ Brightening Infusion Hydrogel Mask, My Beauty Diary Arbutin Brightening Mask and Leaders Coconut Gel Mask. Some of them seems to have gotten new packaging recently, but the ingredients are the same so the reviews should still hold. Continue reading Ingredients and Brightening Masks

Sheet Masks/Ingredient Highlight: Caviar

Merry Christmas everyone! Hope y’all are staying warm and having a good time. Today, I bring to you the LAST edition of the Sheet Masks/Ingredient Highlight series. Yes, it’s the last set of the 70+ Korean sheet masks I bought back when I started the series. Today, let’s talk about caviar! Caviar contains a lot of omega-3 and omega-6, which are part of a healthy diet. It also contains antioxidants, which helps to combat sun damage. Lastly, it is moisturizing, anti-inflammatory and promotes collagen production. While caviar is beneficial when consumed, there’s barely any clinical studies done on topical effects of caviar. And when it comes to skincare, caviar is a general term for all fish-egg derivatives, not just the little round fish eggs you eat. The extract in your skincare may come from fish eggs, or the fluids around the fish egg, or something harvested after the egg hatched.


Just like how the benefit of fishes or omega-3 supplements varies widely due to the type and mercury content/pollution, I wouldn’t count on all caviar extracts to be the same. Unfortunately, companies only talks about how amazing their caviar is for anti-aging and dry skin, never mentioning more than that. Since caviar is often blended together with other proven nourishing anti-aging ingredients in skincare products, it’s difficult to tell if the benefit actually come from caviar. It may have some moisturizing and anti-aging effects but we don’t know the extend of it. If you are serious about anti-aging, then it’s better to look for proven ingredients such as vitamin C, collagen, retinol and peptides instead.

Skin type: Dry skin, mature skin

Purpose: Combat sun damage, encourages production of collagen, is anti-inflammatory and moisturizing. Continue reading Sheet Masks/Ingredient Highlight: Caviar

Sheet Masks/Ingredient Highlight: Fruits on your face!

With the increasing focus on more natural products, fruit acids are becoming more common in skincare products. Fruit acid is a type of alpha hydroxy acid, or AHA. Those commonly used in facial peels include malic acid from apples and pears, citric acid from oranges and lemons, and tartaric acid from grapes. A fourth well-known AHA, glycolic acid, is frequently categorized as a fruit acid, but it is actually derived from sugarcane, a type of tall grass.


Since the masks are of different fruits (ok fine, vegetable as well depending on how you categorize tomatoes), I will be listing their specific benefits during individual mask reviews.

Skin type: Mature, acne-prone.

Purpose: Fruit acids are AHAs, so they exfoliate, help reduce wrinkles and pigmentation. Fruit acids also dries up excess oil and unclog pores. Continue reading Sheet Masks/Ingredient Highlight: Fruits on your face!

Sheet Masks/Ingredient Highlight: Aloe vera

Remainder: Today is the last day to enter the skincare giveaway! Full of sheet masks goodies as well as my other winter favorites and you only need to do two things to enter!

Aloe Vera is perhaps one of the most well-known and friendly skincare ingredients. I hated wearing sunscreen when I was young, so pure Aloe Vera gel was a must have for my frequent sunburns. In fact, a study found that Aloe Vera gel displayed some anti-inflammatory effects superior to those of 1% hydrocortisone when applied over a 48-hour period. Aloe Vera gel possesses Auxin and Gibberellin, which are anti-inflammatory and stimulate skin healing for minimal scaring. It also supplies oxygen to the skin, which strengthens the skin and maintains the skin health. Aloe Vera also contains lots of anti-oxidants, such as beta carotene, vitamin C and E, which firms the skin, keeps it hydrated and restores the pH balance. Basically, it’s good for everything, which is why most skincare products will contain some amounts of it.


Skin Type: All skin types.

Purpose: It contains lots of antioxidant contents and improves skin elasticity so it’s good for anti-aging. It’s anti-inflammatory and healing so it’s good for sensitive or blemish prone skin. It is hydrating so it’s good for dry skin. Continue reading Sheet Masks/Ingredient Highlight: Aloe vera

Sheet Masks/Ingredient Highlight: Cucumbers!

Cucumber slices have long been used as eye masks to calm and hydrate, and with good reasons. Cucumber contains plenty of vitamin K, an antioxidant that fights dark circles under the eyes. It also reduces swelling and water retention, thus are great for reducing puffiness. The vitamin A, B-5 and C helps to fight dark spots and retain moisture while silica helps to fight wrinkles. Not only that, cucumbers also have a high water content and cooling properties, thus making it a great way to soothe skin burns and irritations.20160520_132532

As many DIY cucumber mask recipes as there are online, I’ve only eaten them since I always thought their benefits are only due to it being cool and wet. Now that I know it is definitely beneficial, I’ll definitely have to start playing around with DIYs using it!

Skin type: Sensitive skin, dry skin and early aging skin.

Purpose: Hydrates, soothes, debuffs and anti-wrinkle. Continue reading Sheet Masks/Ingredient Highlight: Cucumbers!

Ingredient/Sheet Masks Highlight: Tea Tree

Tea tree…. if you have acne-prone skin, you probably have heard a lot about it already, but it’s great even if you don’t have acne. It is a plant native to Australia and commonly sold in forms of tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is a natural antiseptic and used topically for acne, cuts, burns, insect bites, toothache, infections etc. Tea tree oil can help relieve any type of skin inflammation, including being used as a natural eczema treatment and for reducing psoriasis. Not only has it been used for over a hundred years in Australia, there has been over three hundred scientific studies about its antimicrobial prowess alone. In fact, studies has shown that applying a 5% tea tree oil gel appears to be as effective as 5% benzoyl peroxide for treating acne. Tea tree oil might work more slowly than benzoyl peroxide, but it is also less irritating to the skin.

20160607_151450In addition to the two sheet masks, I also have a tiny bottle of pure tea tree oil for home use. I put a few drops of tea tree oil and eucalyptus oil into a spray bottle with water, then shake before use. It’s a skin friendly bug repellent, great for wipe down things and also great as a room freshener.

Skin Type: Acne-prone, irritation/inflammation-prone skin.

Purpose: Soothes inflammation and is a natural antiseptic. Continue reading Ingredient/Sheet Masks Highlight: Tea Tree

Ingredient/Sheet Masks Highlight: When life gives you lemons…

Make honeyed lemon slices, make lemonade, throw it at someone… There are numerous uses for fresh lemons and they are wonderful for your health when consumed. However, I would advise against using lemon or lime juice in skincare DIYs. First of all, they are extremely acidic and the ph varies from fruit to fruit, so it is very potent and can irritate the skin. It can cause skin sensitivity and the phototoxic reaction when your skin is exposed to sun gives you redness, burning or even darker pigmentation. With that said, lemon and lime are wonderful ingredients in properly formulated skincare.20151113_105434

Lemon and lime are a great source of calcium, magnesium, potassium and vitamin C. The citric acid in the fruit helps to fade dark spots and evens your skintone. They are also antibacterial and antifungal, which is great for acne-prone skin.

Skin Type: Acne prone and oily

Purpose: Brightens, clarifies pores and control oil (it is slightly drying). Continue reading Ingredient/Sheet Masks Highlight: When life gives you lemons…

Ingredient/Sheet Masks Highlight: Ginseng

Ahh ginseng, the king of herbs and THE most popular health supplement for the elderly and sick. When consumed, it’s good for health, energy and longevity. In terms of skincare, it helps to reduce wrinkles and enhances the production of collagen. It is also anti-inflammatory with plenty of antioxidants, which helps to reduce acne, irritation and environmental damage. Ginseng also contains a large amount of phytonutrients, which stimulate the skin’s metabolism and helps with detox as well as blood circulation.


I have consumed oriental and American ginseng before, but don’t have much experience with it in skincare since it’s mostly for mature skin. Sulwhasoo and Erborian are the only good brands I know with a line of ginseng products, but a lot of Asian brands tend to add a little ginseng here and there in the ingredients.

Skin Types: Mature, problem and dry skin types.

Purpose: Anti-aging, brightening, rejuvenating and moisturizing.

Continue reading Ingredient/Sheet Masks Highlight: Ginseng

Sheet Masks/Ingredient Highlight: All About Berries

It’s almost summer! Yaaaay! And my favorite part? BERRIES! Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries that I just can’t get enough of. There’s a plethora of benefits and reasons why you should eat berries, from preventing cancer to helping with weight loss. In terms of skincare, acai berry and blueberry are the most popular due to their high antioxidants content. Antioxidants protect the skin from sun damage and environmental pollution. Not only does it delay signs of aging, it also has anti-inflammatory effect.

A lot of fruits contain antioxidants, but did you know that acai has up to 33 times more antioxidants than red wine and grapes?? In addition to vitamin A, C and E that helps with skin regeneration/repair, acai also contains a lot of fatty acid that support the structure and firmness of the skin. For most skincare, time and exposure to light/air can diminish the antioxidant’s effectiveness, but acai has proven to be resistant to this effect. While acai is currently miss popularity, blueberry is a strong contender. Blueberries are one of the highest antioxidant foods in the world. It contains vitamin K, C as well as resveratrol and various minerals. It also have a high concentration of salicylates, the salt of the salicylic acid, which makes it great for acne-prone skin.


Skin types: All skin types!

Purpose: High antioxidant content protect against environmental damage, fatty acid helps with anti-aging and the acids helps to keep the skin clear. This blog post covers acai and blueberry, but other berries such as goji and strawberry also have similar benefits.

Continue reading Sheet Masks/Ingredient Highlight: All About Berries